Like many of you, this time of year finds me going into the final “acts”of the season, after having completed winter pruning, spring planting and summer harvesting with multiple intermissions of weather woes. For others, perhaps, you are just gearing up for the busy fall season.
The actors and scenes remain much the same year to year: delighted customers who picked cherries leaving with juice on their faces, donut fans willing to stand in line to get them while they’re hot, families bringing their children to pick strawberries because that’s what they did when they were children.
This year, there is a new young actress—my 19-month-old granddaughter, Emma Grace. Having her “work” by my side brings back memories of my earlier days working alongside my mother. Emma Grace hands me ears of corn and stops to touch the soft silks on each one. As we wash cucumbers, she shrieks with joy when they slip through her fingers and fall back into the sink. We bunch flowers into bouquets and her tiny fingers gently touch each petal with wonder. She has assumed the lead role in causing me to actually slow down to savor the moment.
When you work in agritourism, running a business where you interact on so many levels with customers and often, your own family members, it can be demanding, exhausting and not for everyone. In our quest to give our customers a great experience, most of us probably have a pretty skewed work-life balance and rarely slow down!
So, I encourage you to step back, when you can, and see your farms and what you do through the eyes of a small child. We forget how much they observe and take in. Allow a little customer to feel the bumps on a pickling cucumber. Show them that seeds grow on the outside of a strawberry. Catch them when they come down your farm slide. Break off a peppermint leaf and let them smell it.
Slow down and be in that moment with them, because those moments go on the right side of the work-life balance equation.
When you close those weary eyes at night, rest well knowing that what you do truly makes a difference to the small people at your farm, who will, hopefully, carry on the traditions for years to come.
If you have any stories about the "next generation" at your at your business, we'd love to hear about it! Share your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth is the President of the Michigan Agritourism Association. She is also the owner of Corey Lake Orchards in Three Rivers, which features a roadside market, bakery and distillery.